Play TV’s Virtues and Vices

Thanks to the wonderful mynameisblair (who, ironically, is actually called Frank), I suddenly started considering Play TV’s pros and cons. I then decided that ‘pros and cons’ was a bit of a dull term and words that begin with ‘v’ are totally underrated, so I called the article Vices and Virtues instead.

I’ve had Play TV since somewhere around last Christmas, by which I mean I got it on Christmas day, and I’ve been using it almost every day since. It is a brilliant service – recording freeview via my PS3 removes roughly one box and its accompanying wires from my bedroom, which is good considering that there are so many wires under my desk a spider would have a hard time getting through them. I sometimes go down there and I find the remains of a spider next to a note that says ‘tell my family I love them’.

…Anyway. Play TV is, if you didn’t know already, an upscaling freeview tuner with recording functionality, which also allows you to pause and rewind live TV. You can record a single program at a time, during which you can watch another, or play a game, or anything else like that. Whilst you’re playing a game, the game will play just as smoothly as it would normally (or it has in my 11 months of experience, anyway), so you’ve got nothing to worry about. You can do whatever you like whilst Play TV is recording.

Unless, of course, what you want to do is download something from PSN. When Play TV is open in any way, which means both if you’re actually using it yourself or if it’s loaded up in the background recording something, anything that you are downloading in the background will pause until Play TV is closed completely. This is one of the relatively small amount of problems I have with Play TV. I want to be able to download whatever the hell I like whilst I’m watching TV. In the past I have started a download and gone downstairs to watch TV on Sky, simply because I wanted to download and watch TV at the same time, because I’m such a crazy extremist, always breaking boundaries with my radical ideas.

This isn’t that much of a problem if you either don’t download many things on your PS3 or don’t record a lot of stuff, but if you’re anything like me and own a massive chunk of PSN’s games and just can’t help but download everything you possibly can from PSN, not being able to finish said downloads for a while because you have the sheer audacity to watch television is a bit of an annoyance.

Also, I can watch live TV whilst Play TV records something else, so why can’t I record two things at a time if I’m not watching something else? It only makes sense, especially since Play TV is essentially recording what I’m watching on live TV anyway, as proven by the fact that I can pause and rewind it whenever I feel like.

It’s a bit of a pain to watch TV at night with Play TV, because the guide seems to just stop getting proper listings, with entire channels not having it’s programmes listed late at night, resulting in random channel guessing, hoping you don’t accidentally stumble across an episode of Hollyoaks. Predictably, all of these channels are the channels I might want to actually watch.

I’d like to set reminders for things, too. Do you have any clue how many times I’ve missed the Gadget Show because I’ve been shooting people in the left eye (I’m a brilliant shot, apparently) in Uncharted 2 and been unable to record it because I was recording something else? No? It’s 132 times. It’s not really, I made that figure up. It’s about 3 times, but that’s 6 times too many.

You might think I’d be complained-out by now, but you clearly don’t know me if you do – I also want series linking. Programmes aren’t always on at exactly the same time every week, and if I miss the last 5 minutes of One Tree Hill I get all cranky and stuff, so series link would be a very good idea. Oh, and when a pop-up appears for a timed recording whilst you’re playing a game, you don’t actually know what it’s recording, because it just says ‘timed recording’, which is a bit of a grievance.

However, the biggest problem I have with Play TV is this; when I open Play TV, do whatever, quit Play TV and then go back into it, I can’t get back in – the PS3 crashes at the Play TV splash screen. This means that I have no choice other than to turn the PS3 off via the dreaded double beep (which it does when you turn it off when it’s froze). If I was recording anything I immediately have to restart the PS3 and Play TV to get it recording again, and I’ve still missed 4 minutes of whatever I was recording. With my luck, that’ll be the best 4 minutes – someone in One Tree Hill may well have sprouted wings, flew up into a tree to save a cat, brought it back down and then the wings would’ve disappeared, never to appear again. And I’ve missed that. Damn.

All this, plus the stupidly long loading time when you first start it and the occassional video-jumping whilst playing back a recording (which is fixed by exporting to and playing from the XMB), make Play TV sound much worse than it is. The truth is that Play TV is excellent, but as with all excellent things (and killing sprees), there’s just a little more needed to make it Godlike. I get picture through Play TV that outshines the Sky box downstairs due to Play TV’s HD upscaling, not to mention that the UI is a lot nicer than anything else I’ve ever used to watch television. Exporting recordings to my XMB is a great feature too, and a convenient way of getting around delaying your downloads if you’re only watching something you’ve already recorded.

So yeah, Sony, get to work fixing these bugs and I will give you a cybercookie. Maybe even two!